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Chester County Press

Braving Veracity returns with a new anthology of essays by -- and about -- women

05/26/2021 10:47AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

When Dida Gazoli published Braving Veracity, Vol. 1 in July of 2020, she had achieved a great many things, beginning with the fact that she had edited, published and released the book smack in the middle of COVID-19, when the world was in shutdown.

Second, Gazoli had championed eight women writers from Chester County, and the Brandywine Valley, whose personal essays and memoirs captured in the 65-page book were both poignant and relatable. Third, and perhaps the most monumental achievement, was that Gazoli was introducing local audiences to the notion that there could possibly be more to creative expression in the region than just paint and canvases, and stuffy art gallery openings filled with portraits of rolling landscapes and barns.

Riding the success of the first volume, and still in defiance of coronavirus shutdowns and letdowns, Gazoli has just published Braving Veracity, Vol. 2 that features 11 essays, written by local women authors whose work centers around women who have influenced, changed or inspired them during difficult periods in their lives.

“I never thought that COVID-19 would stop the progress of this second anthology, and in fact, I felt just the opposite,” Gazoli said. “I felt that this was a very good outlet for these writers. For every writer who submitted work, whether they were published or not, it gave them a platform for self-expression during a life-threatening pandemic.

“It was, in many ways, a form of catharsis and reflective of the theme of this volume of personal essays, because when we live through difficult times, it causes us to look to the people who have walked us through the trauma and on to the other side.”

Vastly different voices

In Braving Veracity, Vol. 2, Gazoli – who shared editing duties with Stacy Pershall and Nancy LaFever – introduces readers to short essays by writers of vastly different voices. In her essay “Sofia’s Voice,” Carrie Barcomb weaves a contemporary story of coping with the grief of losing her brother to an illness that may have been traced to COVID-19. Interspersed with that narrative, Barcomb’s essay also weaves in the rich influences of a former matriarch and a network of like-minded women.

In “Dreams of My Mother,” Eve Rachel Fisher measures the volume of her current life against the imagined interpretation her mother –whom the author lost eight years before– may have for her daughter’s journey.

In her introduction to the 159-page book, entitled “Amazing Grace,” Gazoli – whose essays and editorials have appeared in the Washington Post, MSN and on the NPR show “Tales from the South”— writes about the influence that a Southern woman named Grace had on her life.

“Grace changed my experience in the South before I relocated here several years ago,” Gazoli said. “She passed away in late February just a year shy of 100. My essay is more about how I changed than it is about Grace.

“So, each of the essays are not necessarily about the women highlighted in our stories. They’re about the ways in which we, the writer, have changed because of them. Without these women influencers, we may not have gotten there.”

The cover of Braving Veracity, Vol. 2 features a portrait of contributing writer Marlén Cordova-Pedroza, an 18-year-old senior at Kennett High School, whose essay “Where There’s a Will” portrays the influence of Loretta Perna on her life. For many years, Perna has directed the Walk In kNowledge (WIN) program at the high school that provides mentorship to Latina and Latinx students.

Developing a new platform for women writers

Gazoli sees the future of anthology dovetailing with live readings of the authors’ work, to be performed at intimate venues under the heading of “Rhythm & Words” scheduled for a future date. She is also working with Bryan Tuk of GrooveKSQ to develop a series of live “spoken word” podcasts – expected to be first aired this summer – that will give women writers another platform for their work.

“I am all about women empowering other women,” Gazoli said. “That has been my experience in my writing life and in my personal life. One of the reasons I began this  project is because women, especially women of color, have had their voices drowned out. I want to give them a place where they can be heard.

“Every writer has a story to tell and that story wants to be told. Our job as writers is to trust our voices,” she added. “And my job as a creative nonfiction coach is to walk the writer through that process.”

Braving Veracity, Vol. 2 includes personal essays by Carrie Barcomb, Catherine Braik-Selin, Kate Braithwaite, Marlén Cordova-Pedroza, Eve Rachel Fisher, Erica Mier, Joanne Morley-Kalmbach, Pat Muccigrosso, Jolene Wilson-Glah and Maryellen Winkler. To order the book online, visit “Braving Veracity” at The book lists for $17.95 (paperback) and will soon be available on Kindle eBook. It is also available for purchase at Philter on State Street in Kennett Square.

For more information about the anthology series and how to submit an essay for possible inclusion in a future edition, visit or email Dida Gazoli at [email protected]

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].